The Nashville police force has come down quickly in the cases of two officers’ posts on social media.

First, officer Anthony Venable was decommissioned on July 7 after he posted to Facebook a remark regarding the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota. Just three days later, officer Christopher Taylor was decommissioned after he posted a Black Panthers photo on Facebook. The decommissioning of both, according to an article in The Tennessean, is “a nonpunitive, administrative action that will result in the officer being either reinstated or not, depending on the investigation's findings.”

Regarding Venable’s decommissioning, Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson told The Tennessean, “The police department is treating this matter very seriously and took immediate action, regardless of what he claims the context to have been.”

AND JUST THIS WEEK: One Lebanon officer has resigned and another is on administrative leave after posting aggressively hostile anti-trans messages on social media. As reported by WKRN/News2:



The quick action of the police force raises the question: what happened to the fire department employee who posted anti-LGBT messages on his personal Facebook page? That story came to the fore well over a month ago.

As you may recall, the blog East Nashville News first noticed the posts, among other proclivities from the NFD, in particular those of Mr. Tim Lankford. He self-identified as an EMS District Chief for the fire department on his personal Facebook profile page and posted, among other things, disappointment that the Supreme Court granted marriage equality nationwide last summer.

Where he ran contrary to the social media policy within the NFD was that he identified his employer and his position. This is America, of course, and we all have the freedom to speak our truth. The fire department policy, though, renders any employee in danger of losing his or her position by speaking in controversial tones and self-identifying as an employee of (and, thereby, choosing to represent) the Nashville Fire Department.

When O&AN reported the story, we spoke with Marisa Richmond, a lobbyist with the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition and recent appointee to the Metro Human Relations Commission, who said, “If a public employee cannot treat everyone who needs help fairly and equally, they should not be in that position.”

Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project—and who is newly appointed to Mayor Megan Barry’s Council on Gender Equity—said that Mr. Lankford, while within his First Amendment right, has “revealed his bias.”

Sources tell O&AN that Mr. Lankford had chosen in the immediate aftermath of the news reports (the story was also picked up by WTVF/Channel 5) to spend a number of personal days, that he’d accrued from his position, away from the job. Last we heard, Mr. Lankford is back on the job and is likely to face disciplinary action for his indiscretions some time in the near future.

In the time since, we’ve heard from a number of concerned citizens who’ve asked “how did the police force deal with the cops so quickly while we sit and wait for the fire department to make a move regarding its employee?” Without full knowledge of either situation, there are a number of assumptions we can make.

The police department’s quick action came in light of, simply, one of the worst weeks for race relations in recent times as it regards police services in America. These are all government employees, remember, so the political argument is relevant, as uncomfortable as it is. The decommissioning of an officer, as noted above, is non-punitive so the police department chose it to quickly create a safe distance between the employee and the front line of duty.

In the fire department’s case, the discovery of Mr. Lankford's social media indiscretions came about before the shooting in Orlando, and the personal time he took between then and now, self-imposed as it was, provided a time buffer for the fire department that the police force sought in the decommissioning of its two officers.

On the face of it, Lankford’s anti-LGBT posts were, as Chris Sanders said, revealing his bias. Yes, his comments were inflammatory—he quoted another who threatened to physically beat a trans person in a public bathroom, remember—but they didn’t arrive during a white hot cauldron of national anxiety, such that we experienced after the Orlando shooting. The police officers’ comments, particularly those of Venable, appear to have only added gas to a flame.

Nonetheless, it appears Lankford will face his day, and we’ll keep you posted.





Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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